Prosecutors have filed charges against 12 people suspected of being involved in a more than NT$1 billion (US$31.32 million) public infrastructure project to build an elevated railway in Taichung.
Hua Sheng Engineering Construction Co obtained a tender — part of the “Taichung Metropolitan Area Elevated Railway Project” — to build 21.7km of rail tracks along with elevated station platforms, viaducts, barriers, electrical and utility lines, and underpass crossings.
The Taichung District Prosecutors’ Office yesterday said that the company was fined NT$33 million for construction delays and other breaches of its contract.
To avoid paying the fine, the firm hatched a scheme involving collusion between organized crime, government officials working in the Railway Reconstruction Bureau, the Ministry of Transportation and Communications (MOTC) and a Taichung police officer, investigators said.
The scheme involved kidnapping, blackmail, procurement for sex, kickbacks and influence peddling, they said.
Investigators discovered that a female MOTC section chief at the bureau’s central Taiwan office refused to go along with the scheme, insisting on detailed scrutiny of the project and the imposition of the fines against the company.
Hua Sheng executives colluded with a Taichung police officer and other ministry officials to follow the section chief and secretly film her going about her daily activities in an attempt to gain information that they could use to blackmail her, investigators said.
As they did not discover any impropriety, Hua Sheng paid an organized crime group to kidnap her in July last year, and she was stripped naked and photographed, in a bid to blackmail her into co-operating with the company and alter completion dates of the project to avoid paying the fine.
Prosecutors have charged Su Hsiao-chen (蘇曉貞), special assistant to the president at Hua Sheng, police officer Kuo Chih-feng (郭志峰), and a contractor surnamed Lu (盧) with kidnapping, blackmail and related offenses.
Su allegedly seduced male officials at the bureau to persuade them to take part in the scheme.
Nine other people were also listed as suspects in the case, including several bureau section officials, technicians and inspectors, as well as Hua Sheng executives and their subcontractors, and charged with crimes including forgery, offenses relating to abuse of public authority, making illegal profits and breaches of the Government Procurement Act (政府採購法).
Legislators requested information on the ministry’s handling of the case at a meeting of the legislature’s Transport and Communication Committee yesterday.
Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) legislators Phoenix Cheng (鄭運鵬) and Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) questioned Deputy Minister of Transportation and Communications Chi Wen-jong (祁文中).
Cheng angrily demanded an explanation for why the company did not pay the fine, and asked how ministry officials and inspectors could receive bribes to change the project’s phase completion dates on the submitted reports.
The scandal has become an embarrassment to industry associations and government agencies, as Hua Sheng received a major honor in October, winning the prestigious National Golden Award for Architecture for its design and construction of a college medical center in Kaohsiung.
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